Bambuddha Leaves: Heart friendly finger food with asian pesto

by sophie on March 21, 2007 · 10 comments

Post image for Bambuddha Leaves: Heart friendly finger food with asian pesto

A few years ago we had a short trip to San Francisco where a rather dry conference was brightened up massively by my bright-spark of a colleague suggesting that we all stay at the Hotel Phoenix. The Phoenix is a day-glo, 1950’s motel-style hotel famous for being the residence of choice for passing bands and other arty types. Such a hip venue was a little daunting at first (boy did I feel like I’d bought the wrong clothes) but the hotel had such a party atmosphere and the staff were so friendly that we had a fantastic time. Even more cool than the hotel was its then newly opened cocktail bar/restaurant, the Bambuddha Lounge. Numerous items from the asian-fusion menu were sampled but the thing that has stayed in my memory was the Eight Element Salad. A big bowl of finely chopped delicacies were mixed at the table, (I remember lime, ginger, garlic, chilli, peanuts, coconut and sesame seeds) and we were left with a pile of verdant greenery with which to parcel them up. The greenery was apparently la lop leaves and the end result was a very invigorating (and slightly surprising) mixture of crunchy, sweet, sour, fiery and citrus.

When Ilva and Joanna had the splendid idea to host an event on heart friendly finger food I was immediately filled with enthusiasm; heart health is such a vital part of nutrition and choosing what to eat that I’ve hardly got a post that doesn’t mention it in some way! After my initial giddiness I realised that for all my healthy-eating talk I actually had very little in the way of finger food in my repertoire. Surely such a worthy event deserved better than my usual standby nibble of chopped veg and houmous? After a bit of pondering I decided to create a heart-friendly homage to that eight-element salad; soft spinach leaves filled with a vibrant asian pesto and topped with fresh spring onion, pepper and cucumber. I still have no idea what a la lop leaf is (I’m pretty sure you can’t get them round my way) but a humble spinach leaf is more than up to the job and creates a pleasing boat shape, curling safely round its cargo when you pick it up.

Until a few years ago we thought that the key to a healthy heart was to eat low-fat. Eating less fat is still an important part of the picture but we now know that it is the combination of fats in your diet that makes a huge difference the levels of artery clogging LDL (bad) cholesterol in your blood. Saturated fat is out, polyunsaturated fat not so great (though useful when it comes from oily fish) which leaves monounsaturated fat as the flavour of the day. So, all those saturated fat rich finger foods (pastries, crisps, cheeses, charcuterie) should be making way for nibbles based monounsaturated fats (nuts, seeds, olives, olive oil). These little beauties will hopefully go someway to redress the balance; the fat in them is from the olive oil and cashew nuts, both choc full monounsaturated fat. Replacing saturated fat with monounsaturated fat in this way helps to lower the aforementioned ‘bad’ cholesterol levels. And then of course there are all those veggies in there which are also busy lowering cholesterol levels at the same time as providing antioxidants (also anti-artery clogging) as well as helping to keep your blood pressure nice and low. Phew.

I was pleased to see that Illva and Joanna have put really high quality links on the blog they have set-up to host this event (including the American Heart Association, British Heart Foundation, British Nutrition Foundation). There’s a lot of rubbish out there! All of this stuff with fats etc is particularly confusing and hard to keep up with so I’d like to add another suggestion if I may; the Food Standard’s Agency has some very easy to digest information on its Eat Well Be Well site.

I hope you enjoy these if you try them! Getting rid of any leftover pesto is no chore; we’ve had ours with stirred through noodles, stir-fried veg and prawns and in a wrap with some leftover chicken. It should keep in the fridge for a few weeks – pour a little bit of oil over the top to keep it fresh.

Asian Pesto

Recipe for Bambuddha leaves with asian pesto

30g / 1oz fresh coriander (cilantro) - a big handful
60g / 2oz unsalted cashew nuts
2 teaspoons ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium red chill, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon thai fish sauce
Juice of half a lime
Mild flavoured olive oil (about 3 tablespoons)

To serve
A big pile of clean and dry baby spinach leaves
Thinly sliced red pepper, spring onion (aka salad onion, scallion) and cucumber

Blitz the cashew nuts to a rubble in a food processor then add the remaining pesto ingredients with the exception of the olive oil and blitz further until everything is in small pieces. Add olive oil and blitz a little more until you get that familiar pesto consistency.

Place a small dollop of the pesto on each spinach leaf and top with a little piece of each of the sliced veg. Easy!


ilva March 22, 2007 at 11:57

Thanks Sophie, both for these edible little beauties and for the information! I’m going to add that link on the HotM blog straight away!

Meg March 24, 2007 at 11:17

Hi Sophie, these look gorgeous and incredibly tasty! So much so, in fact, that I’m plannning to make them this weekend. One question, through: the pesto looks green in your photo, but there aren’t any leafy ingredients listed in the recipe – is there something missing, or does some weird alchemy happen when you blitz the nuts?

Sophie March 24, 2007 at 11:33

D’oh! Sorry Meg, no, it isn’t some magic alchemy :-) I forgot the main ingredient, the coriander (or cilantro depending where you are). I’ve edited the post now so the ingredients are correct. I hope they work out well for you!

Meg March 24, 2007 at 13:53

Thanks Sophie!

Helene March 26, 2007 at 15:10

Thanks for sharing these edible goodies!! I´ll try with young spinach leaves!!:)

Sally March 26, 2007 at 15:11

Boy! Talk about simple, and good! Thanks for the idea Sophie. I like your site here.

mooncrazy March 27, 2007 at 00:53

I love the idea of using the spinach leaf, cool!

johanna March 28, 2007 at 16:39

mmmhhh! i must remember this for any future caterings… especially with any size 0 guests at a mayfair cocktail party, this should be a sure hit!

Sophie March 28, 2007 at 20:04

Thanks for all the comments everyone!
Johanna I bet these would go down a storm with the skinny minnies, they look very saintly and there are just a couple of nuts in there :-)

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